The afternoon temperature was at least forty degrees, but Lori O'Neill shivered, as she and her twin brother, Ian, listened to the funeral service for their father. She dabbed at her tears, slowly making their way down her cheeks, with one of her late mother's white lace handkerchiefs. She was aware of the dignitaries sitting to her left, but her mind kept recalling the Police Commissioner's visit a few days earlier.
'What do you mean it was an accident? I don't believe it,' she had yelled. 'It wasn't any accident. I know it wasn't. I want to know who and why and I won't stop until I find out why my father died.'
'We've investigated and we can't find any evidence to suggest it was anything but an accident. The file is being closed. Ian, talk to her. She must understand that there's nothing more we can do.''I'll try, sir,' Ian had answered, as he showed the commissioner to the door. 'Thank you for coming.'
Lori returned to the present, as Ian leant over to tell her it was time to say their last goodbyes. Hand in hand, they approached their father for the final time and slid their hands along the length of the shiny brown coffin.
Lori leant over and whispered. 'I'll not rest, daddy. "I'll find out what happened and someone will pay. Goodbye daddy.'
Ian and Lori stood outside the chapel after the service. Lori struggled with her compsure, as people shook her hand and expressed their condolences; their faces becoming a blur aftr the first few had passed.
"Ian, let's go. I've had enough of being nice to people.'
"Hang on, Sis, we can't leave yet. They have refreshments and we're supposed to be there.'
'I'm leaving. You seem to forget that some of these people would know what happened to dad,' Lori answered, as she marched towards their car. Ian continued to greet people, before hurriedly following her.
They did not notice Captain Glen Nicholson observe them leave. He watched from the verandah of the chapel until they drove away, then he turned back to scan the faces of the mourners.
Later that day, Lori curled up on the couch in the living room of her late parents' house to watch the television news.
"Colonel William Harold O'Neill was laid to rest today at Karrakatta Cemetery, with full military honours. Present were representatives from Britain, the United States, New Zealand and Canada, Australia's Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and many other politicians, together with top defence force personnel. As part of his eulogy the Prime Minister praised Colonel O'Neill's work as invaluable and that he'll be sadly missed. The Colonel's vehicle had been pulled from the Swan River at Nedlands early last week. According to witnesses there was an explosion and the the vehicle veered off the road and into the river just after midnight. The Police Commissioner announced at a press conference this morning that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the Colonel's death. The findings of the investigating team showed that two tyres burst simultaneously causing the Colonel to lose control. This was an unfortunate, freak accident, which has claimed the life of one of our top terrorist experts."
Meanwhile, on the other side of Perth, in a cheap motel room, a young man was also watching the television news report. He got up and flicked the switch off, then looked at the full bottle of whisky sitting on the scratched, wooden coffee table and poured himself a glass of the strong liquid, swallowing it in one gulp. As he did so, his mind flashed back to events he would rather forget; the night Colonel O'Neill died and how he had been standing in the dark passage, his hands shaking and clammy, staring at the gap between the bottom of the door at the end of the passage and the wooden floor. The light came and went, as Colonel O'Neill moved around the room on the other side of the door.
David Hamilton had stepped quickly back into the alcove in the old brick building, as the heavy door was swung open to reveal a tall, well-built man who carried himself with ease in his military uniform. The light sparkled off the insignia, indicating his rank, on his epaulets as he turned to close the door. David held his breath and pressed his body against the wall, until he heard the doors of the elevator close.
He remained in the shadows until there was no sound, only silence, then moving from his hiding place he walked quickly along the passage to the office, opened the door and then, before securely closing it and switching on the light, he stopped to listen for any sound that people were still in the building.
He picked up the phone and dialled a number. His voice shook as he spoke to the person on the other end.
'He knows something. He's been asking questions.'
'Colonel O'Neill is a danger to our plans. You've got to get rid of him.'
'I can't do that. I can't.'
'You have to. Our work is in jeopardy. Do you think he would have told anyone?'
'I don't think so. The building's empty. There's a dinner at Government House and a lot of the top personnel are there and everyone-else has the night off. Anyway, knowing him, he'll want to find out exactly what's going on before reporting it.'
'You'd better be right about that, but you still have to do it. We can't take any chances. Do it before dawn. Telephone me immediately after it's done and make sure he hasn't left any incriminating documents.'
The line went dead. The man on the other end was gone. David stook looking at the telephone then collapsed into a chair and held his head in his hands. 'I didn't think it would come to this.'
His thoughts returned to the present, as he reached for the bottle again. Within an hour it lay on the worn, stained carpet beside the couch; empty. A loud snore vibrated around the room as he slept heavily.
CHAPTER 1 SIX MONTHS LATER
'I've done it sis. I've resigned. I finish next month,' Ian called as he entered the house.
'What do you mean?' Lori asked as she came out of the kitchen.
'I'm giving up work. I'm tired of constructing bridges. I'm going to cross a few instead.'
'Ian you can't. You've worked so hard to get where you are.'
'I have to get away. There's so much more t see ou there. Come with me sis. There's nothing here for you now that mum and dad are gone. Come travelling with me.'
'No Ian I can't go. You're forgetting about dad. We still don't know why he died and if he was murdered. I have to stay here and try to find ou.'
'Sis you've harassed everyone, the police, defence force, politicians and the media. They're all tired of you asking questions. If anyone were to find out anything the police would have, but even they haven't found evidence of murder. Leave it alone. Get on with your life. You've got to accept it was an accident.'
'I'll never accept that. I know dad was murdered. There's a cover-up and I intend to find out exactly what it is,' Lori replied. 'Your dinner's ready.'
Ian did not say any more. He knew when to leave his sister alone.
Lori dumped his dinner plate on the wooden table in the dining room and returned to the kitchen. Am I the only one who needs to know the truth about daddy's deth? So much has happened in a short time, she thought, as she stared at the calendar on the wall and at the thick red circle around the date on which their dad had died. When Ian has gone I'll be alone. I'm thirty years old. My friends are married and have families to keep them busy. They've all stopped phoning to see how we are but I don't blame them. All I talk about ar mum and dad and they keep telling me to get on with my life, but I can't give up, as tears made their way down her cheeks.
Two weeks later Lori stood at the Perth International Airport saying goodbye to her brother.
'Make sure you enjoy yourself,' she said as she kissed his freckled face. She bit her bottom lip to stop from crying. It was the first time they would be apart.
'I will. You look after yourself too Twindy."
She smiled as he called her by the nickname he'd given her as a toddler but rarely used these days.
'See you in a few months. I'll phone you every Sunday night,' he said as he hugged her and gave a final wink and cheeky grin before turning to head through the large auomatic doors to Immigration.
Lori walked to the escalator. As she rode it to the ground floor her tears were building. I'm not going to cry but once in her car she sat and let the tears fall. Sometime later she heard a loud roar and got out of her car to watch the big Qantas jet climb into the clear blue sky.
'Take care Ian,' she shispered. 'I don't have your courage to leave and make a new life for myself. I wish I did. I wish I could pack my belongings and fly away like you but I can't. Am I using dad's death as an excuse? Is fear the reason I can't leave everything I know and travel to the unknown?'
At first everything had been fine. Ian phoned her regularly every Sunday night between eight and ten. Then four weeks ago his phone calls stopped. He had been in Singapore the last time she spoke to him and was planning to catch the ferry to Indonesia the next day. He had told her he would be home before Christmas. The Indonesian authorities had established he left the ferry in Batam then nothing. The Australian government had done what they could but the Indonesians were not helpful, so now Lori had lost another person in her life. I have to stop thinking about it. Ian wouldn't want me to go on mourning him.
Lori stopped ironing and looked at herself in the mirror on the wall of the lounge room and thought about her life. The last months I've been consumed with finding out about dad's death. Nothing else has mattered but now I've lost Ian. He wanted me to travel with him. Why am I so stupid? I can't go on this way. I have to get on with my life. Everyone has been trying to tell me this.
Lori sat down, held her head in her hands and stared at the floor. Her tears wet the carpet between her feet as she sobbed and sobbed, at last putting the past to rest. She did not move from the chair until late. It was nearly dark outside and heavy rain was making a loud noise on the old iron roof. She moved across to close the curtains and noticed a vehicle turn its headlights on across the road and drive away. I've seen that car parked there before. It's been there several times over the last weeks. Every time I notice it, it leaves. It makes me nervous; she thought, as she went around the house locking the windows and doors and then went into the kitchen to prepare dinner.
As her dinner was cooking she glanced through the newspaper and stopped when she noticed an advertisement for people to teach English overseas. They want teachers in Indonesia. I'm qualified to teach and I could look for Ian while I'm there. She quickly cut out the advertisement and put it under a magnet on the fridge. Ian was right, I do need to go away and this is the perfect opportunity.
The next day Lori left home early. She easily found the address she was looking for in the city and thirty minutes later was back on the street. She felt exhilarated at finally making a decision to move on with her life. After she had handed her completed application form to the receptionist, she was told she could get a posting in two to four weeks as there was a shortage of people willing to undertake the work and there would be no problem with going to her preferred country.
Lori ventured into a cafe for a morning coffee. She was thinking about all the things she would have to organise before leaving Australia, so she didn't notice a man walk up and stand beside her until he spoke. Lori jumped at his words.
'Well, well, Lori O'Neill. Haven't seen you for ages. What have you been doing?'
Lori looked up quickly to stare at David Hamilton, an acquaintance from her university days. 'David this is a nice surprise.'
'May I sit down?'
'Of course. You startled me as I was thinking and didn't notice you walk up.'
'What's on this pretty lady's mind?'
Lori relaxed and as David sat down she began telling him of her plans, carefully leaving out about looking for Ian. He doesn't need to know that, she thought, as she continued. 'It's time I did something with my life.'
'Yes, I heard about your dad. It's very sad. You've had a few tragedies haven't you?'
Lori looked at him and wondered what he was alluding to and how much he knew about her life? Does he know anything about Ian's disappearance? But Lori did not want to talk about her losses, so she quickly changed the subject.
'That's enough about me. What have you been doing David?'
'I've been in Canberra the last couple of years. I've been working in Government. Look, I'm in a bit of a hurry now but I'll be in Perth for the next couple of weeks. Give me your phone number and I'll call you. We can meet for a drink and celebrate your new job.'
'That would be great David. I'll look forward to it,' she answered as she wrote her number on a serviette.
David gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, held her hand for a couple of seconds and then left. Lori touched her cheek gently with her fingers as she watched him walk quickly away.
Lori let her hair blow back from her face, as the white Porsche convertible sped along the deserted highway north of Perth. The morning was hot and promised to be a scorching day. The noise of the engine made it impossible to talk, when they had made their way through the suburbs and onto the country highway. David must have a highly paid job to have a car like this, she thought. She glanced at him occasionally and asked where they were going.
'What was that?' He yelled, but didn't answer her question and Lori, tired of repeating herself, fell silent and watched the countryside flash by.
Copyright (C) Veronica Scott 2010